Not every line of dialogue a screenwriter pens for a movie will end up making into the final cut. However, during Black Panther’s development, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige made sure that Erik “Killmonger” Stevens’ last words before his death would not be altered in any way during shooting, as he felt that the entire movie could be built around them. When asked at what point he realized that Black Panther was going to “attract a community that has been underserved” in the superhero genre, Feige responded:
It was in those early discussions that we had with Ryan, that he had with Nate Moore, our executive producer at Marvel who brought him in to meet with us. And that amazing line, that he and his co-writer, Joe Robert Cole, wrote for Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) as he lay dying outside the vibranium mines looking over Wakanda. T'Challa says, ‘I can try to heal you,’ and he says, ‘Why, so you can lock me up? Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped ships, 'cause they knew death was better than bondage.’ That was in the first draft. It was one of the best lines we ever read. We said, ‘There are going to be a lot of revisions, but don't touch that line.’ And Ryan said, ‘That's the line I thought you'd tell me to cut.’ And we said, ‘On the contrary, keep it and build more of the movie around it.’
There are a lot of ways that Black Panther stood out from other superhero movies, Erik Killmonger being among them. Michael B. Jordan received heaps of praise for his performance as Killmonger, and the character has since been labeled by many as one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s best villains. But as Kevin Feige told THR, Killmonger’s final moment was instrumental to building the entire movie. Like any other major motion picture, Black Panther went through alterations, including a deleted Killmonger line before his death resulting in the movie’s ending being changed, but it was ensured that Killmonger’s last words about not wanting to be imprisoned was kept in, and that proved to be the right call.
Although the MCU has experienced a lot of success in the nearly 11 years since Iron Man came out, Black Panther stands out a particularly notable triumph. Besides being incredibly successful critically and commercially (it’s collected over $1.3 billion on the latter front), T’Challa’s standalone feature has earned numerous accolades over the last couple months, including winning two Grammys and two SAG awards. Next up on Black Panther’s awards season journey is the Academy Awards, where it’s been nominated in seven categories, including Best Picture. As for Killmonger, despite him dying, it’s been rumored that Michael B. Jordan could reprise the character in the future.
You can find out how Black Panther fares in the Oscars race when the 91st Academy Awards air on Sunday, February 24 on ABC. As for the future of the property, Chadwick Boseman and Letitia Wright will reprise T’Challa and Shuri, respectively, in Avengers: Endgame this April. Black Panther 2 has also officially been given the green light, with Ryan Coogler returning to write and direct. Stay tuned to CinemaBlend for updates on how the sequel is developing.